Category Archives: Addiction Recovery

I Quit Forever.

I made a New Summer’s Resolution. I am quitting all diets forever, and I mean forever.

This isn’t a new idea. “It’s not a diet; it’s a lifestyle” has become cliché in our age of dietry. So I want to be clear: when I say I am quitting all diets forever, I don’t mean I’m adopting a certain diet as my new way of life. I am not a new Paleo convert. I literally mean I am quitting. All diets. Forever.

It occurred to me one day that I have spent a ton of time being afraid of and simultaneously drawn to a few “bad” foods; namely, cookies, sweet tea, and French fries. These are my heroin, my security blankets, and my antidepressants (that seriously don’t work). But these foods have no inherent value; they are not “bad.” They are inanimate, valueless. My method of consumption is what determines the wisdom of eating them.

Well, here’s the thing: I don’t want my daughter to end up waging the same war I have for 30½ years. I want to win it and end it, perhaps for us both at once. I’d rather my daughter know that some foods are everyday, all-you can eat foods; some foods are treats; and some foods are just for parties. I want her to see food as sustenance and occasionally a social enhancement and definitely a gift from God (as evidenced by the existence of taste buds, according to my pastor). What food is not is an emotional anesthetic or a substitute for affection. I want her to know that fruits and vegetables have superpowers, and that’s why God made them so bright and colorful. I want her to know that singing and dancing and laughing and playing all make for better journeys than Oreos do.

FullSizeRender

I don’t want her to be scared of food. I definitely don’t want her to be scared of being fat.

So I’m not quitting health. I’m actually kind of finding it, now that I’m exiting the diet funhouse with all its mirrors that distort and lie and frighten. It’s a hard place to leave, because as restrictive and hateful as diets can be, they’re also seductive. They tell you sexiness and happiness and all your dreams-come-true are in following their simple regime.

It’s a lie.

Instead, we walk together, my daughter and I. We have Bath-Time Dance Parties. We snack on grapes and avocados when we’re hungry. We point to different parts of our bodies and say, “Anna has pretty arms; Mama has pretty arms! Anna has pretty feet; Mama has pretty feet!” And we remind each other that strong is more important than gorgeous, but gorgeous is a given.

A really beautiful memoir I read earlier this year included the line, “Contentment doesn’t double by the serving.” Very true: more potato chips have never led me to more joy. But I’ve learned that you don’t have to diet to eat fewer potato chips. You can just choose an alternative ending. Sure, you’ve always eaten the whole bag. See what happens if you don’t this time. I’ve been practicing. The skill sharpens with repeated success. And it definitely keeps proving the point that more food never equals more contentment.

When I get to the end of my life, my daughter with me in my room, I sure hope she doesn’t say, “Mom, you taught me how to diet.” I hope she says, “Mom, you had soul. You knew how to fight and win. You knew how to dance.” If that’s the story I want to tell, I’d better stop the dieting, choose something greater than the cookies, and just for the love of God get started dancing like she does:

IMG_2431

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Addiction Recovery, Broken Beauty, It's a Girl!

The Title-Loan Disciple.

By some cruel twist of fate, my family had to pay the IRS this year. It’s not yet been explained to me in a way I find satisfactory. Even so, it’s nice that the IRS isn’t an evil oligarchy running the show and illegally making money off the poor in order to oppress them further. From what I’ve read, that was the case in the Roman Empire a couple millennia ago. Tax collectors took not only the requisite income tax but also outrageously more in illegal funds to keep for themselves. Worse, they were abusing their own people: the brutal Romans hired them as Jews to steal from the Jews. The profession, of course, attracted the greediest, most dishonest thieves alive. They were so sinful that Jesus lumped them together with pagans (Matthew 18:17).

So it’s odd that in Luke 5:27, Jesus stops at one of these booths and asks the guy inside to be a disciple, in Jesus’s most intimate circle of friends. I think this would be kind of like Jesus stopping into a title loan shop and inviting the manager to become a disciple.

But not only did Jesus choose that kind of person, he also gave the invitation while the sinner was in the middle of sinning. Matthew’s at work, stealing from everyone, generally being abusive and awful, when Jesus says, “Wanna get away?”

Jesus saw this terrible man not as he was but as he would become. Jesus knew the strength and goodness seeded in Matthew’s heart. It caused Jesus to push past the sin in the guy’s story to get to the real man underneath.

And look what it does to Matthew: the immediately following verse tells us he threw a huge party at his house (Luke 5:29). He went from being swallowed up by greed, hatred, and abuse to utter generosity. He was willing to pay to feed everyone so they’d come over and meet Jesus too. That’s what Jesus can do: when he calls you away from your junk and starts whispering to you about who you really are, it changes you. Whatever ensnared you the most forcefully can be completely reversed. You simply can’t look at both options – the sinful you and the freed you – and want to stay where you are.

No one

There is one thing that can keep people from Christ though, it seems. He says to the religious bigots, “I have come not to call those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners and need to repent” (Luke 5:32). A person who “thinks he/she is righteous” is pride-full, and that’s what apparently keeps Jesus away. In order to receive the grace of the Messiah, you have to know you need it.

But why choose greed and pride over Jesus? He is kind, protective, loving, and holds all power. He has sustained me with joy in my very darkest moments. He has surrounded me with a community of people who, because they love him, hold me up and cherish me as he does. He has not stopped giving me the desires of my heart since I trusted my life to him. And even if none of those things were true, he is still all we need on this earth. He literally provides everything from food to healing to comfort. There is no one like my Jesus. And even though I started out as selfish and sinful as Matthew, Jesus is fulfilling his promise to accomplish inside of me all he promised to accomplish since the beginning (Psalm 138:8). Since it’s a promise made to everyone, that promise goes for you too.

Leave a comment

Filed under Addiction Recovery, Broken Beauty, Jesus Loves Me

Patterns.

p10605762

In the first grade, I failed at patterns. The worksheet asked us to color a series of shapes in a red-blue pattern, but that bored me. Instead I colored mine teal-violet-violet-teal-violet-violet – a pattern, to be sure, but the wrong one. My teacher not only gave me an F for the assignment but also refused to let me leave during bathroom break. The anger on my mom’s face when I told her about it that afternoon might have been amusing had it not been so terrifying.

Still, it is of vital importance that we get our patterns right. Like a quilt is composed of its patterns, we humans are composed of patterns too. A repeated choice to numb pain with alcohol creates an alcoholic. A repeated choice to overeat in loneliness creates a food addict. A repeated choice to light up creates a smoker. The patterns make the person.

12610085828602794515ee59yKc

Not only that, but our patterns end up manifesting themselves in our children too. They do what we do. That scares me a little; I know how often I fall short of perfection. However, blessedly, this is a biblical concept, which means there’s hope attached. In 2 Timothy 1:5, Paul thanks God for Timothy’s mom and grandma, who passed down their faith, establishing a pattern of Godliness for Timothy. They were examples to him of how to live wisely, and they also raised him in truth and love. We can do the same, constructing the same type of patterns within ourselves and our children. If our children can be persuaded to scream when angry because that’s how they see it done, they can also learn to be patient when angry if it happens around them. Paul says that’s what teaching is for in the first place – building patterns for living. In verse 13, he tells Timothy to “keep the pattern of sound teaching with faith and love in Christ” (NLT, emphasis added). We’ve got to show our children how to live according to Godly patterns.

Some transparency: in my story, what has most often kept me from the patterns Jesus wants is a belief that I have no self-discipline, as in, “I’d eat better, but I just can’t seem to stop.” That often leads to a second, more detrimental belief: “It’s just who I am.” But that’s not Godly. First Timothy 1:7 says, “The Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.” It’s not a quality you have or don’t; it’s part of the Spirit given to you by God. If you have him, you have self-discipline. Self-discipline for the Christian is like quad muscles: you’ve got them already, but you have to exercise them if you want them to be strong. You can get your patterns sorted out. You can stop yelling when you’re angry. You can find another way to deal with boredom. You can end any bad habit or any destructive pattern. Jesus gave his life to secure freedom for everyone (1 Timothy 2:6), which means you’re in.

568w

In addition, I’ve spent a lot of time believing that “one piece of chocolate won’t hurt.” It seems many of us fall prey to this: “one cigarette won’t hurt,” “one porn film won’t hurt,” “one beer won’t hurt.” And maybe it won’t (although these statements have not been evaluated by the FDA), but the pattern you’re setting up will. The pattern of all that chocolate, all those cigarettes, all those hours of porn, all those beers, all those moments spent killing time when you could be talking to Jesus…those will eventually hurt. In fact, they’ll eventually destroy.

Know what I’ve found to be even harder? When you know all that, and you even keep trying to change your patterns, but your efforts produce nothing. Simon Peter, the day he met Jesus on the lake, had been trying all night to catch fish, and nothing had worked. Every fisherman’s technique he knew failed him. Then, Jesus said, “Try one more time. Row out to the deep water and give it one more go.” Simon says, “I’ve already done that. But hey, if you say so.” He rows out and, boom! More fish than he and his partner can lug into the boat. (The story is found in Luke 5.) That’s the power of obedience: it can change your patterns. You’re trying, you’ve seen yourself fail repeatedly, and Jesus says, “Just one more time.” When you respond, “Okay, if you say so,” it will work. It will. It still may not be a straight shot from sickness to health, but you’re headed in the right direction. Just take his advice; he’s Jesus, so he’s right.

http-www-michelemademe-com201210hexagon-quilt-top-check-htmlm1

It probably goes without saying that you won’t ever get your patterns right all by yourself. It’s not because you’re weak. It’s not because you’re a failure. It’s because you’re human, a condition that’s not going away. But God has “unlimited resources” (Ephesians 3:16) to help you follow a different pattern.

And we have to – we really don’t have a choice if we’re going to be followers of Jesus. It’s part of “training for holiness,” as Paul labels it in 1 Timothy 4:7, 8. Paul knows we won’t get it right the first time, just like you’re not ready to participate in the Iron Man until you’ve spent a considerable amount of time training. We are called to holiness, and that’s a tall order. But we’ve also been equipped for it by a God with unlimited resources. Besides, imagine what that would be like: complete freedom from the pattern you’re so tired of following.

So maybe give it one more try. See what happens if you row back out one more time. Jesus will make sure you have everything you need to change your patterns. Jesus will set you free.

488_smashing_pinwheels_quilt

Leave a comment

Filed under Addiction Recovery, Broken Beauty, Jesus Loves Me

Live free.

My friend S said something the other day that changed the game: “The opposite of afraid isn’t calm. It’s joyful.” She was telling me about a scary time in her life in which she realized that being calm is only the midpoint. True trust in God leads all the way to the other end of the spectrum – joy.

Historically though, joy has not been associated with the Christian life. Missionaries talk about suffering for Jesus. Lookers-on fear that if they became Christians, they couldn’t have fun anymore. Few pictures depict joyful-looking Jesuses.

Frankly, I get it. At first blush, the Bible seems to be loaded with rules. When you get saved, you give up your “freedom” to live life however you want in order to be given a Bible-sized list of rules. Don’t get drunk. Don’t have sex with someone you aren’t married to. Don’t hate your enemy, even the ones who hate you. Don’t eat the meat of animals with cloven hoofs. Come on.

Yet in John 8:36, the Bible famously declares, “If the Son sets you free, you are truly free” (NLT). And 1 Timothy 2:6 says that Jesus “gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.” If this “freedom” comes with so many rules, what kind of freedom is it really?

To say Jesus gives us “freedom from sin” feels disingenuous. Romans 3:23 says everyone has sinned. I don’t know about you, but I, a “free” Christian, still sin an awful lot. Besides, to a skeptic, freedom from sin 1) doesn’t matter, and/or 2) isn’t desirable. And yet: Jesus wouldn’t die to secure something for us that wasn’t desirable. So there must be more to it.

Here is what I believe: Jesus purchased us freedom from certain destruction. Sin destroys. Whether sexual sin, monetary sin, relational sin, or one of the “seven deadly sins,” engaging in it causes us to lose relationships, peace, health, trust in others, money, and so forth. Any addict or recovering addict will readily admit the truth of that statement. Try going through life as I did, expecting food – food! – to fill your emptiness. It doesn’t. It costs you energy, health, money, time, and dignity. Or perhaps try to fill yourself with frenetic energy, staying busy, worried, and stressed all the time. Try pride. Try sexual sin. Try over-spending. Try numbing with Facebook, television shows, smoking, being bored, and general time wasting. These things all destroy. They destroy you, the trust others have in you, the relationships you’re in, and all manner of your health.

But Jesus – Jesus pours into you. He brings you abundantly joyful life (John 10:10). He replaces your fear with peace (Matthew 6:25-27) and joy (Luke 2:10). He fills your empty places with good things (Luke 1:53). He brings you hope, even in the most hopeless circumstances, because he makes everything new (Revelation 21:5), and he will accomplish in you what he set out to accomplish (Psalm 138:8). Every single wonderful thing that has ever happened to you has come from him as a gift (James 1:17).

So the freedom Jesus brings is not a list of rules. He gives you the freedom to enjoy your life, to not be bound up in things that don’t satisfy. He brings you a ticket out of consuming worry. He brings you deliverance from addiction. He introduces you to a life of completeness and fullness for all those empty places. He doesn’t take away the consequences of sin, but he gives you another option: himself. Without him, you can’t know the freedom of complete inner calm, inexhaustible joy, and deep wisdom for the most harrowing storms.

jesus-laughing-baptizing

Specifically for me, this has begun to mean freedom from perfectionism. My personality is as achievement- and perfection-oriented as they come. I am the firstborn of two high achievers, so there was no escaping this. I spent decades petrified at being anything other than perfect. It’s no way to live, folks. You’re stressed and frustrated with yourself almost all of the time.

Then, this January, the third time my Counseling Systems class met, I was assigned a huge project due the next week. Being new to the program and to psychology in general, I was terrified at the thought of turning in such an important project so soon, so I promptly scheduled an appointment with the professor. I sat on the couch in her office with a list of questions intended to help me perform perfectly. After hearing her patient answers, I was still scared to death, and the stress squeezed itself out as tears, my paper blurring in front of me.

She then shared with me a part of this truth about Jesus bringing us freedom. “Listen,” she said, “you can’t thwart God’s will with a less-than-perfect project or exam, even if that’s what results. You aren’t that powerful. If it’s God’s will for you to be here, you’ll succeed when you give him your best effort. You don’t have to be perfect.” Slowly, so slowly, I have found freedom from (most of) my perfectionism. God didn’t ask me to be perfect, and he promised to accomplish his work in me no matter what. I’m safe.

Believe me, I was skeptical of this “freedom” too. But he really did purchase actual, true freedom…for everyone (1 Timothy 2:6). In Jesus there is freedom from “hustling” for approval, as Brené Brown puts it. In Jesus there’s freedom from fear (2 Timothy 1:7, 1 John 4:18). In Jesus there’s freedom to hear the truth (cf. John 8:43). In Jesus there’s freedom to keep your joy, no matter what happens, because you know it will all be okay in the end (see Revelation and all the Gospels). In Jesus there’s freedom from all the junk that comes from you trying to meet your own needs – freedom from all that destruction and anger and sadness and hustling and shame. That’s what freedom is and that’s what you get with Jesus.

Tell that to your list of rules.

Leave a comment

Filed under Addiction Recovery, Jesus Loves Me

How I Lost 102 Pounds, Part II

My one-year-old investigates the world with a pair of sparkling, joyful eyes. She pulls spices off the rack, books off the shelf, and hair off the dog. But her favorite thing in life is her belly. She often lifts her shirt so she can see it, always pushing her palms into it and grinning, as if saying, “I can’t believe this is mine!” She scrambles away from me while I try to dress her, reveling in the feel of her own skin. She loves her body. And she also loves food. Her first (made-up) word was “baba,” with which she referenced all food – bottles, baby food, the food on our plates. Not long after she started using “baba,” she also designed a way to tell us she wanted more: she pointed at “it” and clapped.

This must be the way God designed it for all of us – to love our bodies and the food we fill them with. Our bodies jump, twirl, sprint, chase, hug, and explore. What’s not to love? And why would food be any different? In Genesis 1, God lavishly offers Adam and Eve “every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for food” (v. 29, NLT). Surely he meant for us to relish it. Everything God has created is good (1 Timothy 4:4), which includes food and our bodies. My job was simply to reorient myself from body-hate and food-anxiety to pure love and compassion.

  • I came to terms with slow progress. As I gradually implemented changes in my lifestyle, I truly owned who I was becoming. I was compassionate with myself and never demanded more than I could conceivably do. For example, it was hard to cut ties with soda. I know some people can drink it and still lose weight, but those people are not me. For two or three weeks, avoiding soda was my only goal. But eventually it became second nature and allowed me to move on to building another victory. The slower the progress, the less likely you are to give up all your hard work for a momentary buzz.
  • I celebrated all success. Celebration empowers: it draws attention to your triumphs and gives you an answer for the mean uglies that sneer, “Overweight is who you are, honey. Give it a rest.” So, I winked and smiled at myself in the mirror on days I liked what I saw. I celebrated with a little kitchen-dance each time my hand passed the Pringles and in favor of the strawberries. When you stop mistreating yourself, you discover that celebration is your birthright and victory is your destiny.
  • I asked myself “Is that true?” My counselor’s favorite question as we processed my relationship with food was, “Is that true?” I told him, for example, that I simply couldn’t stop myself from overeating. I knew it because I’d tried and failed so often. I also told him that no matter what I did, it would be impossible for me to lose weight, due to genetics and PCOS. But whenever I made such statements, he would ask, “Is that true?” I was often forced to say, “No, I guess not.” The Bible tells us to “take every thought captive” (2 Corinthians 10:5), and I quickly learned most of my thoughts needed to become POWs.
  • I didn’t wait for the strength to make the right decision. If I had, I never would’ve put a single new habit into action. Instead, I tentatively, haltingly, started making changes. I didn’t know if I could go to a restaurant and make a healthy choice. The first several times, I didn’t: I was waiting on some supernatural erasure of my desire to binge, I suppose. It never came. What I found, however, is that when I made the right choice, the strength to keep doing it followed. When I started fighting, I always received the grace to keep fighting.
  • I discovered my weaknesses and attacked them. I always thought I was overweight because I really liked the taste of food. And I do, but so does everyone else. Instead, I was overweight primarily because I love convenience and comfort. It was easy to drive through at a fast food restaurant. It was easy to get lunch out. It was comforting to buy warm food “because it’s so cold today” or junk food “because I had a bad day” or ice cream “because today was awesome” or an appetizer and dessert “because it’s the weekend.” Nothing is inherently wrong with that, but you can’t lose weight if you make “exceptions” every day. I went with my own flow of convenience and comfort by preparing in advance: I always had the ingredients for healthy pizza on hand, I experimented with protein shakes until I had some concoctions that supported my weight loss efforts and were also sinfully delicious, and I made lots of portable snacks to grab when leaving the house.
  • I stopped sacrificing joy on the altar of happiness. The problem with donuts is that they make you happy. If they didn’t, you wouldn’t eat them. But that happiness lasts exactly as long as the donut is in your hand and sometimes even less. Joy – the knowledge that you’re closer to Jesus as a result of your struggle, the ability to make healthy decisions, the feeling of slipping into a sleek outfit – doesn’t go away. And you never regret the actions you took to cultivate it (unlike the donut). Joy does not result from deprivation. Joy does not result from shame and self-loathing. But it will bloom when you treat yourself compassionately, with the same love and awe you have for any little sweethearts you may have in your life. Joy comes from knowing you are cared for, so you must care for yourself.

Of course, even if you learn to love your body and the process, weight loss is not easy. It is sacrifice, it is frustration, and sometimes it is unsuccessful. But here is the beautiful part: in the battle, you find Great Love. As hard as it was to drop 102 pounds – in all that white-knuckling, teeth-gritting, cookie-avoiding journey – I ended up finding joy, loads of it, pouring over the edges of my soul. I was no longer a slave to substance abuse as I learned how to approach the substance itself. Jesus fought for me, and alongside me, and I became free.

Leave a comment

Filed under Addiction Recovery, Broken Beauty

How I Lost 102 Pounds, and How I’m About to Do It Again. (Except with only 55 pounds this time.)

You could call it a “resolution” perhaps, but this is more like finishing a quest I started a few years ago. It’s like this: in 2009 I weighed 268 pounds. The day I saw that number on the scale, I was wearing a hot pink T-shirt and black stretch pants, which had become my uniform since I felt ugly in all clothes. I lived in a state of constant shame that wasn’t working, but when “268” flashed up in red numbers, it was time for immediate change. My friend K called that day, and I admitted to her I had a problem with substance abuse. That phone call launched a personal campaign that led me to drop 102 pounds in the next two years. Not everything worked, but I kept fighting until I found many channels to success. Here are some of them, which I’m learning to repeat so I can get off all that baby weight I gained in 2013.

  • First, I made a commitment to myself: “I will not stop seeking help until I get all the help I need.” Not everyone needs addiction counseling, but after years of dieting and failing, equating my size with my worth, and binge eating, I certainly did. I had religiously followed Atkins, Zone Perfect, Weight Watchers, and others; the solution was obviously not in the food I was eating. However, when I made a fiercely maternal commitment to my wellbeing, my mindset changed. Failure simply wouldn’t happen again.
  • I stopped blaming. The thing is, I really do have a medical problem that adversely affects my weight. Having the infernal PCOS means my hormones are constantly imbalanced, and my body doesn’t properly use insulin. But PCOS does not sentence me to a life of obesity and depression; I was sentencing myself to such a life. So I stopped saying, “If I didn’t have PCOS, I could lose weight” and “It runs in my family” and “I have a slow metabolism.” I finally owned my part in the matter and got down to business.
  • I exercised however I wanted to. I realize a certain pattern of weightlifting and cardio is optimal for weight loss, but I don’t enjoy that. So I swam on days I felt like swimming, I rocked the stationary bike when it called to me, I walked outside and took deep breaths before deadlines, I popped in fitness DVDs I liked, and I went to yoga on Wednesdays. I did whatever was enjoyable, and guess what? It worked beautifully.
  • I composed a list of five things I would do any time I felt a nonphysical urge to eat. I learned that most of the time my urge to eat was emotional, but I just couldn’t seem to talk myself out of it. Therefore, I approached myself with enough compassion to discover five ways to deal with my nonphysical “hunger.” If I still wanted to eat after completing all five, I went for it. (That happened exactly twice.) Heavy emotions like loneliness and fear were suddenly met with prayer, phone calls to friends, journaling, a Friends episode, and/or 15 minutes of walking. Most of the time, I never got further on my list than phoning a friend before returning to homeostasis or even peace.
  • I didn’t eat salad. Here is an understatement: I hate salad. When people say they’re “in the mood for a good salad,” it makes as much sense to me as being “in the mood for a good dentist visit.” Salad is terrible. Balsamic vinaigrette does not deserve its hype. Strawberries, pomegranate, and other jazzy fruits do not belong with greens and oily dressings. And don’t get me started on how salad is not a meal. So…I didn’t eat it. Much like with exercise, I ate what I enjoyed – salmon, apples, walnuts, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and other good stuff. There’s too much delicious food out there to waste time with salad, so I didn’t.
  • I took beauty breaks. In 2009 I lived in an apartment with a gorgeous view of the Blue Ridge Mountains. To keep my stress at bay – and I had a lot of it, dealing with graduate school, miscarriages, an impossible marriage, sexual dysfunction, and isolation from my friends and family – I regularly stepped outside and breathed in the evergreen breeze. Beauty restores; stress destroys. So I gorged on beauty and let it drive out the stress.
  • I envisioned a new life and acted as if I already had it. I had always wanted to be the girl who feels confident in her own skin – the girl who wears red dresses, drinks water instead of soda, and shops at Victoria’s Secret. So I didn’t wait to lose 102 pounds; I bought a red dress and even some items from Victoria’s Secret. I cut out the soda. It didn’t take two whole years to become the person I dreamed of being. I think it took a month. I decided I’d waited long enough, and I was worth the change.

As you might imagine, none of these are based on the advice of a doctor. In fact, they aren’t based on the advice of anyone, and that made the difference. Viewing myself as someone unique, as the world’s leading expert on me (as my man would say), I worked hard to develop a plan that worked for me. My therapist and I talked through each of the actions I set in motion, evaluating the outcomes. I also saw a nutritionist and my gynecologist during the process to ensure I didn’t harm myself in any way and that I was effectively managing my PCOS. But because the answers were coming from me, because I was working on my own behalf, I felt empowered, as if the solutions had been within my reach the whole time. It was just a matter of sifting through what I already knew of myself to create answers.

If any of your 2015 resolutions involve weight loss, I wish you all the joy and endurance you need for the journey. Call someone when you need support. Go on a drive, now that the price of gas doesn’t require you to sell your firstborn. Give a hug. Get maternal about your own health. You can do it. You already have all you need to win. Go be brave.

2 Comments

Filed under Addiction Recovery, Broken Beauty

Masterpiece.

Earlier this month, I threw a book on the floor in disgust. I was reading A Jewel in His Crown by minister Priscilla Shirer, and if the title leads you to believe the book is nutty, you’re mostly right. However, the comment that initially angered me has proven far wiser in the weeks that followed than I ever imagined: “A continued struggle with weight…is a direct sign that we have not submitted ourselves completely to the Lord.” I was aghast – where did Shirer get off, suggesting my weight was tied to a lack of submission to Jesus? I am absolutely submitted to the Lord, I protested in the margin. While I am thoroughly imperfect, I live my life for the glory of God as best as I humanly, possibly can.

The short version is, turns out she’s right. I dealt extensively with my food addiction while in graduate school and was able to whip myself eventually into obedience. When I felt God was assisting the process, I took the project back over from him and willed myself the rest of the way. Then when the old habits came back during my pregnancy, I was dismayed but not shocked. I kept telling myself, “Well, this is who you are. What did you expect?”

THAT IS NOT THE VOICE OF JESUS.

I continued to let that voice serenade me after the 60 pounds had been gained during 37 weeks of pregnancy. And I continued to let that voice serenade me after my daughter was born. And I continued to let that voice serenade me until I threw down my copy of Shirer’s book when my explosive disgust let me know she was right.

It was time for another kind of throw-down.

I started exploring myself with grace and even acceptance, becoming curious about my thoughts and actions. What else had that voice said to me? I grew militant about uprooting the beliefs, rendering the voice laryngitic. In order to do that, I had to listen, but I did so with beginner’s ears, as if listening for the first time.

The voice said, “You are not free. You must please everyone else. If you don’t at least eat whatever you want, you will have no freedom at all.”

It said, “You cannot control anything in your life. You have experienced so much pain, and it just keeps coming. You should at least be able to eat for enjoyment.”

It said, “Comfort eating is merely a bad habit. If you really want to stop, willpower will be enough whenever you’re ready.”

It said, “Food will give you what you want. You’ll feel free and in control, and you’ll be happy again. The depression will recede and the stress evaporate. You’ll be able to go back to your responsibilities having at least had a little break.”

Jesus doesn’t talk like that. Which means I was listening to a voice with no authority.

But here’s the problem: a diet doesn’t silence that voice. It says all the same things and allures with new gems like, “You’ll be worth something when you lose weight.” “You’ll finally be beautiful when you lose weight.” “You’ll finally be happy when you lose weight.”

The Bible, however, doesn’t say those things either. The Bible says I reflect the glory of God (Genesis 1:27). The Bible says God crafted me (Psalm 139:13). The Bible says God has collected every tear I’ve ever cried because he has that much compassion for me (Psalm 56:8). The Bible says God dances and sings with joy over me (Zephaniah 3:17). Logically, then, I am already worth something, something deep and irrevocable and priceless. The Creator of the whole universe finds me breathtaking. I am already whole. Until these truths bloom in my heart, my life will have no real vitality.

That’s why it could not be more crucial for me as a mother to submit to Jesus the ugly voice, the impaired thinking, and all the lies about who I am. For the issue of weight is fused to the issue of self-esteem, and I cannot teach my daughter to be what I am not. I can’t instill in her a sense of self-acceptance if I haven’t accepted myself. How will she learn? Furthermore, how can I fully embrace my husband if I haven’t fully embraced myself? Will I not always question his love for me if I believe no man could ever find me desirable?

This means, then, what I need is not a diet. Not even a “lifestyle change,” every diet-hater’s favorite euphemism. No, what I need is inner righteousness, an inner power fueled by the One who created me in the first place. What I need is belief in his love and ability to transform me. It is time to put myself in the way of grace and healing. Without submitting the ugly voice to God, I will never be the emotionally, spiritually, physically healthy woman he designed me to be. And I am, by the way, designed. I am a work of art, a cathedral, a masterpiece.

Kill the ugly voice before it kills you. For you are a masterpiece, too.

Leave a comment

Filed under Addiction Recovery, Broken Beauty, Jesus Loves Me